Frequently asked questions

CSH in general

1. What is CSH

CSH-Canadian Subject Headings-is a subject headings list developed by Library and Archives Canada. CSH contains over 2000 subject authority records in the English language, and provides in-depth coverage of Canadian topics, including those recently in the news.

2. What types of headings and subdivisions are included in CSH?

Subject areas emphasized in CSH include headings for Canadian history (e.g. social and economic history), literature, government, geography, Aboriginal peoples, the Canadian legal system, and second languages, bilingualism and multiculturalism discussed from a Canadian perspective.

With some exceptions, most headings fall under one of two main categories: topical headings and geographical headings related to Canada, (i.e. non-jurisdictional regions, rivers, parks, lakes, etc). CSH also provides a large number of chronological subdivisions to reflect Canadian history. Further, there are a small number of name, name-title and uniform title headings mostly related to the Constitution and important treaties included [hyperlink to types listed in “about CSH”?] These are incorporated into CSH in order to show the relationship between these types of headings and related topical headings. For instance, in CSH under the uniform title subject heading, “Canada. Constitution Act, 1867”, the record provides information on associated broader terms, non-preferred terms, and topical headings to assign in addition to this heading.

Topical headings included in CSH appear solely in their Canadian context, via the addition of the subdivision -Canada or other qualifier (but neither is added if the topic is unmistakably Canadian).

3. Can I obtain a printed version of CSH?

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) printed the last paper version of CSH in 1992, and its last supplement in 1999. As of April 2019, LAC is maintaining CSH from within OCLC’s integrated library management system, WorldShare Management Services (WMS). LAC no longer maintains a separate search site for CSH, but makes copies of the complete CSH file in MARC21 freely available via FTP to libraries and other organizations, to load into their own systems. For more information, please contact LAC.

4. Where can I find a list of new and revised subject headings?

A list of new and revised Canadian subject headings is found on the homepage under the link “New and Revised Headings”. When a new Canadian subject heading is created, the record for that subject heading is available immediately in WorldShare Record Manager.

5. How do I submit an idea for a Canadian Subject Heading?

We welcome your ideas for new subject headings. Please forward your suggestions to the Editor, Canadian Subject Headings at:


6. What is the relationship between CSH and LCSH?

CSH is designed to be used in conjunction with Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). CSH provides headings with greater depth or scope of Canadian content. CSH also provides subject headings on Canadian topics where there is no equivalent in LCSH. Generally, CSH follows the same principles and policies as LCSH for creating headings and subdivisions (with a few exceptions where necessary) to facilitate integration of the two vocabularies. When a CSH heading is not authorized in LCSH, the acronym “[CSH]” appears next to the heading in the record.

CSH differs from LCSH particularly in the way various racial, ethnic and language groups are described. CSH also provides unique chronological subdivisions.

When there is a choice between a CSH heading or an LCSH one, you should use CSH in those instances when the latter is inadequate for providing proper subject representation of a topic. For instance, when cataloguing a work on Canadian cabinet ministers, the CSH term “Cabinet ministers--Canada” would be preferable to the Library of Congress (LC) term, “Cabinet officers--Canada”. Or, if a work is about “Saskatchewanians”, for example, CSH provides the heading for this topic, whereas LCSH does not.

In short, CSH complements LCSH headings by offering Canadian content, but does not provide a stand-alone list of subject headings.

7. Does CSH use spelling variant from LCSH?

All topical headings in CSH conform to LCSH spelling conventions, but with this exception:

When a CSH heading has no equivalent in LCSH or is different from the authorized heading in LCSH, CSH may use Canadian spelling if this more accurately reflects Canadian usage of a term.

Notably, CSH includes cross-references from Canadian spelling to the preferred spelling to assist subject heading searches. And Canadian spelling is used within scope notes and instructions.


8. What is RVM?

RVM stands for Répertoire de vedettes-matière (RVM) and is the list of French language subject headings maintained by Université Laval. RVM contains French language equivalents for LCSH, CSH, MeSH and AAT as well as unique French language subject-headings that have no equivalents in English. RVMs can be accessed at the RVM website.

9. Where can I find the RVM French language equivalent for a heading or subdivision in CSH?

French language equivalents for subject headings in CSH can be found in the field 7XX in the MARC display. Visit our subdivisions pages for lists linking CSH English subdivisions with their French counterparts.

Headings and subdivisions

10. What types of Canadian geographical headings and subdivisions exist?

CSH geographical headings form a substantial portion of CSH, and are mostly non-jurisdictional. Headings for non-jurisdictional geographic entities include headings for physical features such as rivers, lakes, and mountains, regions and areas, parks and historic sites, roads, and other entities not considered capable of authorship. CSH also includes headings for regions of Canada and its provinces and territories, such as “Prairie Provinces”, and “Alberta, Northern”, as well for historical geographic entities, such as the “Red River Settlement” and “Huronia (Ont.)”. Details on the proper use of such headings are outlined in scope notes.

In terms of jurisdictional geographical names, name headings for the provinces and territories are included in CSH in order to show applicable subdivisions for same, and to provide the context for the use of these names as subject access points. Name headings for municipalities, cities, towns and other communities, however, are not are included in CSH. Instead, you can find them within the LC/NACO Authority File or within the Canadiana French name authority file.

11. Can I use geographic headings as subdivisions?

Most geographic headings may be used as subdivisions, unless otherwise noted in the scope notes. In terms of geographic subdivisions, the subdivision “-Canada” serves as a pattern for the use of other subdivisions. Accordingly, headings ending with “-Canada” can be subdivided in multiple ways. In fact, the subdivision “-Canada” need not be applied at all when subdividing a topic geographically, if the region can be denoted more specifically. For example, “Arctic char-Canada” is an LC heading, but the subject headings “Arctic char-Manitoba, Northern”, “Arctic char-Nunavut”, “Arctic char-Prince Edward Island-Charlottetown”, etc., are also acceptable.

If the geographic subdivision is handled in a unique way, an instruction is usually provided.

12. How do I apply Canadian geographical subdivisions?

CSH follows the policies of LCSH for assigning geographical subdivisions to topical headings, which generally follow the format:

[topic] - [Canada] or [first-order political jurisdiction] - [specific location]

e.g.: Sasquatch-British Columbia-Carmanah Creek Valley

In general, the policies of LCSH are applied. Some notable policies of CSH are:

  • Subdivisions must represent the current name of an entity. For instance, a resource on Irish Canadian women in Upper Canada would be assigned the heading, “Irish Canadian women-Ontario”, as this province corresponds to the region that was formerly known as Upper Canada.
  • Many geographical headings for regions may be used as subdivisions directly under topical headings without interposing the subdivision “-Canada”, or one of the provinces or territories, such as the headings, “Atlantic Provinces”, “Prairie Provinces”, “Canada, Eastern”, “Nord-du-Québec”, “Saskatchewan, Northern”; e.g. “Wildlife refuges-Prairie Provinces”.
  • The geographical subdivision construction must not be more than two levels deep, for instance:

Acceptable: Snow camping-Yukon

Acceptable: Snow camping-Yukon-Whitehorse


Invalid: Snow camping-Canada-Yukon-Whitehorse (three levels deep)

Invalid: Snow camping-Canada-Yukon (provinces and territories should not be accompanied by the subdivision “-Canada”).

(see also Question 10)

13. How do I apply Canadian geographical headings as qualifiers?

Generally, CSH follows the principles of LCSH for applying qualifiers. Most CSH geographical name headings contain a geographical qualifier, these being one of Canada’s provinces or territories. If a more specific qualifier is called for-for instance, to distinguish between otherwise identical headings, or to qualify entities located within cities, towns, or other communities-headings for other geographical entities can be used to qualify.

For instance:

To disambiguate:

Campbell River (Greater Vancouver, B.C.)

Campbell River (Comox-Strathcona, B.C. : River)

To qualify an entity within a city or cities:

Kensington Market (Toronto, Ont.)

Angus L. Macdonald Bridge (Dartmouth and Halifax, N.S.)

14. What about spelling variant from LCSH for geographical names?

Decisions on spelling amongst variant forms of geographical names are based on forms approved in Canadian Geographical Names Data Base and provincial databases (e.g. TOPOS sur le web, BC Geographical Names Information System, and Nova Scotia Geographical Names).

Note for names in Québec:

  • Québec (both the city and the province) is accented.
    e.g. Québec Campaign, 1759 (not Quebec Campaign, 1759)
    Québec (Québec) (not Quebec (Quebec))
  • For names of features, any proper name portion of the feature is taken from TOPOS sur le web, while any generic portion of the feature (e.g. rivière, montagne, etc.) is usually translated into English. The exception is if the French language name is commonly known in English
    e.g. Orléans, Île d’ (Québec), not Orleans Island or Isle of Orleans
    Châteauguay River (N.Y. and Québec), not Châteauguay, Rivière (N.Y. and Québec)
    Parc national du Mont-Tremblant (Québec), not Mount Tremblant Park (Québec)

15. What is a “pattern heading”? What sorts of “pattern headings” does CSH provide?

A pattern heading is a subject heading which provides a template for creating new heading strings. A pattern heading consists of a main subject heading with subdivision(s). Pattern headings provided by CSH give permission for the CSH user to construct other headings based on that pattern.

For example, a pattern heading for occupational groups is found under the CSH heading Actors-Canada. This pattern heading prescribes the way occupational groups can be subdivided. Accordingly, you can take any occupational group and subdivide it in a similar manner:

Farmers-Canada (heading found in CSH)

Possible subdivisions:

Farmers-British Columbia

Farmers-British Columbia-Abbotsford

Farmers-British Columbia-Abbotsford-Pictorial works

Farmers-Prairie Provinces-Statistics

Please note than when “Canada” is used as a pattern heading, the meaning of “Canada” may vary in context. For instance, the heading “Canada-Bibliography” uses the word “Canada” as the topic of the subdivision, whereas in the heading, “Canada-Officials and employees”, “Canada” refers to a distinct employer, the Government of Canada.

16. How does CSH describe ethnic, racial and language groups in Canada?

Important distinctions between CSH and LCSH occur in the headings used to describe ethnic and racial groups in Canada, and in those used to indicate language.

CSH subject headings construct ethnic groups differently than LCSH, distinguishing between citizens of a certain ancestry with Canadian residents of a certain ancestry who are not yet citizens or who are not permanently domiciled in Canada. For instance:

Belarusian Canadians = for works on Canadian citizens of Belarusian ancestry

Belarusians-Canada = for works on Belarusians in Canada, who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

CSH also makes note of the language that literary works are written in by the use of a qualifier.

Almanacs, Canadian (Italian) = a Canadian almanac, published in the Italian language

Canadian literature (Cree) = Canadian literature written in Cree

If the ethnic or cultural term, however, appears in a form other than a qualifier, (e.g. in an adjectival phrase), this term always refer to the ethnic/cultural context, not the language of the resource. For example:

Cookery, French-Canadian = Cookbooks on French Canadian food

In terms of literature, to signify works written by an author of a certain ancestry, follow the heading with the appropriate subdivision.

Canadian literature-Pakistani Canadian authors = literature authored by Canadian citizens of Pakistani ancestry.

Canadian literature (Urdu)-Pakistani Canadian authors = literature authored by Canadian citizens of Pakistani ancestry, written in the Urdu language.

Notably, CSH uses the term “second language” instead of “foreign language” to refer to use of a language other than one’s first language.

English language-Textbooks for second language learners-Albanian speakers = textbooks for Albanian speakers learning English as a second language

Polish language-Films for second language learners-French speakers = films for French speakers learning Polish as a second language

17. What heading should I use to refer to French-speaking Canadians or English-speaking Canadians?

CSH uses the heading, “Canadians, French-speaking” (which can be subdivided geographically) instead of LC’s heading, French-Canadians, to describe those whose first language is French. Similarly, CSH includes the heading “Canadians, English-speaking” to describe those Canadians collectively whose first language is English.

18. What types of terminology does CSH use for describing Indigenous peoples in Canada?

The collective heading in CSH for Aboriginal peoples in Canada is “Native peoples-Canada”, which encompasses collective works on the Inuit, Métis, and First Nations (or “Indians”). In 2019, LAC started a review of CSH headings and started to develop replacements based on the term "Indigenous" for occurrences of the word "Indian" or "Aboriginal" in preferred headings. The formulation Indians of North America—Canada might be found as a non-preferred 4XX heading.

To refer to specific groups of First Nations people, CSH provides narrower headings for these groups.


19. Where can I see your sources for creating CSHs?

Not all Canadian Subject Headings require a literary precedent in LAC cataloguing to be created; some, for instance, are based on suggestions from users of CSH. In any case, the sources consulted for a subject heading can be found in the MARC record in field 670. Sources are included only for records created or modified since the debut of CSH on the Web.

20. How do I identify whether a heading in CSH is the authorized (i.e. the preferred) version of a subject heading?

The preferred or authorized heading appears in MARC field 150 for topical headings. The non-preferred or unauthorized headings are found in 4XX (See From) fields.

21. Does LAC use CSH to describe works from other countries?

LAC items are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, according to the professional judgment of the cataloguer. Accordingly, CSH headings may be applied to works about other parts of the world if a heading is deemed more appropriate. For example, a monograph on the subject of British cabinet ministers might be better described using the CSH heading, “Cabinet ministers”, instead of the equivalent LC heading, “Cabinet officers”. Similarly, when describing a school in Australia where classes are being taught in two languages, the CSH heading “Bilingual schools-Australia”, provides a heading where there is no equivalent in LCSH.

22. Why are scope notes found only under some CSHs?

In CSH, scope notes set a topic in a Canadian context, introduce terminology, and discuss how the heading may be used. Scope notes can often be found under the broader term relating to a specific subject area. For instance, while there is no scope note under the narrower term “Muskeg tractors”, one may be found by going up two levels to the broader term, “Transportation-Canada”. For some subject headings, however, no scope notes are provided. This is typically because the heading’s meaning is self-evident.

23. Why are there sometimes two subject headings for the same term?

Occasionally, two records may be provided for the same heading-subdivision combination when necessary. Specifically, one record might designate the attached subdivision as a form, placing it in MARC subfield “v”, whereas the other record might designate the subdivision as topical, placing it in subfield “x” (or some other similar scenario). For example, there are two authority records is CSH on the Web for the heading, “Canada-Aerial photographs”, in order to account for the possible two-faceted interpretation of the subdivision, “Aerial photographs”.

24. What are "equivalent" headings?

When a Canadian Subject Heading replaces or stands in for an LC subject heading, this LC heading is considered to be an “equivalent heading”. Equivalent headings also occur when a heading is translated from English to French, or vice-versa, thereby creating a French language or English language “equivalent heading”.

Equivalent headings are found in the MARC display within the 7XX fields.

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